BOISE, Idaho — Attention pet owners: A company you’ve never heard of wants you to stop buying prescription medicines and supplements for your dog or cat from your veterinarian and buy its products in stores instead.

PetIQ, of Eagle, says it is the first and leading seller to retail stores of premium, “veterinarian grade” pet medications and health products that you could buy previously only through veterinarians.

PetIQ has shunned publicity since its founding seven years ago, the Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/2uu9Sah). But it’s making a big splash now: The company sold stock to the public for the first time Friday on the Nasdaq Global Market, making it just the eighth Idaho company whose shares now trade on a major exchange.

The business says it sells more than 400 medications that need a prescription, such as Heartgard heartworm pills for dogs. It sells more than 200 over-the-counter pet-health products, such as Frontline-brand flea killer. And it sells vitamins, treats, nutritional supplements and hygiene products under the VetIQ and other brands.

You can find its products in Wal-Mart, Costco, Albertsons, Target Sam’s Club, Costco, PetSmart, Petco and other stores, including more than 40,000 retail pharmacies nationwide, the company says.

CEO McCord “Cord” Christensen said PetIQ employs 250 people, including 40 at its Eagle headquarters, 40 in a Florida office and most of the rest in three factories that make its products in Springville, Utah; Daytona Beach, Fla.; and Plano, Texas.

The company was founded by two Treasure Valley dog people: Christensen, a Centennial High School and Boise State University graduate and a former executive at Albertsons and other companies; and Scott Adcock, a marketing expert and former owner and CEO of Nicklaus Golf Centers International.

Each has a miniature bulldog that sleeps on the floor of their office at 500 E. Shore Drive. “Mine is cuter,” Adcock said.

PetIQ is banking on America’s burgeoning love affair with dogs and cats. More than half of all households own a dog or cat, and they spend heavily. Sales of pet medications grew to an estimated $7.4 billion in 2016 and are estimated to reach $8.9 billion by 2019, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer-goods market-research firm.

“We feel very strongly about our love for pets,” said Adcock, the president. “We feel strongly about our opportunity to bring new-pet parents proper-quality products.”

The company also is banking on consumers buying more pet medications from retailers. The share of pet medications sold by retailers rose to 21 percent in 2015, up from 12 percent in 2011, PetIQ says.

“Pet owners can typically buy our products from retailers at a 20-30 percent savings compared to the prices charged by veterinarians, and can save as much as 50 percent on our proprietary value-branded products, which contain the same active ingredients,” the company said in its prospectus for investors before Friday’s initial public offering.

PetIQ hopes Congress will lend a hand. A bill called the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2017 could speed the migration of pet medications to retailers by requiring veterinarians to give pet owners prescriptions that they can fill more cheaply at retail pharmacies, PetIQ says.

Originally named True Science, the company changed its name last year. It reported $215 million in sales in its latest fiscal year, which ended March 31, up from $32 million in its first year, 2011. It swung from a loss of $11 million in fiscal year 2014 to a profit of $1.2 million in the latest year.

Christensen and Adcock secured other investors as their business grew. Two private equity firms became part-owners in 2012 and increased their investments as growth continued, Christensen said.

Its board includes Gary Michael, the Treasure Valley resident who is former chairman and CEO of Albertsons Inc. “He has helped us tremendously,” Christensen said.

The owners decided that this was a good time to take the company public so they could benefit from a strong stock market and raise capital for future growth. “The company reached a phase where we felt it was the best way to attract capital for the growth strategies we want going forward,” Christensen said.

Demand for shares exceeded supply at opening, so trading opened at $16 a share, the upper end of the anticipated range of $14-16. By late Friday the share price was $23, up 44 percent.

Buyers included big-name firms such as Fidelity, T. Rowe Price and Janus Capital, Christensen said. Shares trade under the symbol PETQ.


Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com